Max Starks offered up some advice for referee Bill Leavy if he still feels so terrible for a couple controversial calls he made during Super XL nearly five years ago.
“He should go ahead and retire if he feels so bad about it,” Starks said Saturday. “Just do us all a favor and not referee anymore.”
In Seattle for the first time Friday since refereeing Super Bowl XL in which the Steelers defeated the Seahawks 21-10, Leavy, a 16-year veteran official, unexpectedly apologized to the Seahawks for two blown fourth-quarter calls that helped the Steelers to the victory.
“I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter, and I impacted the game and, as an official, you never want to do that,” said Leavy, who was at Seahawks camp discussing new rule changes. “It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly. I’ll go to my grave wishing that I’d been better.”
Steelers linebacker James Farrior is one of 11 starters from that Super Bowl still on today’s roster. Farrior was taken aback when told of the admission by Leavy 54 months after the fact.
“I guess they need better refs,” Farrior said. “I don’t know what to tell them. That was 2005. That’s old stuff.”
Leavy didn’t specify which plays, but the most controversial were a holding call on Seattle tackle Sean Locklear and an illegal block by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck after an interception.
Early in the fourth quarter with the Steelers leading 14-10, Locklear was called for holding Clark Haggans on a pass completion to Jerramy Stevens that would have put the Seahawks at the Steelers’ 1-yard line.
“Well, that was a holding,” Starks said. “And that’s coming from an offensive lineman. It pains me to admit those kinds of things.”
Hasselbeck threw an interception three plays later and then was called for an illegal block to move the Steelers near midfield.
Four plays later, Antwaan Randle El’s reverse pass touchdown to Hines Ward sealed the game for the Steelers.
“You know what, even if you give them that touchdown, we still win the game,” Starks said. “It would’ve been 14-10. We still win. I know we have no regrets. We have won another one since. You look back on it, and you’re a human being and that was a judgment call and you have to live with it. If you thought it was iffy, then don’t make the call.”
Seattle coach Mike Holmgren complained afterward about the refereeing and that the Seahawks were called for seven penalties and the Steelers three.
The NFL stood by the officiating afterward, releasing a statement that said the game was properly officiated.
“We won a whole other Super Bowl after that,” Farrior said, “and they are still talking about the first one.”
Notes: Ben Roethlisberger sat out of practice Saturday morning as well as a number of other players, including Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, Sunny Harris, Jonathan Scott, Frank Summers, Matt Spaeth and Tuff Harris. … WR Mike Wallace was excused from practice because his girlfriend is expecting a child. … Dennis Dixon took every snap during both team drills. … Practice resumes at 3 p.m. Sunday.